Doing its job


It happened in the early days of the great construction process – the building

of the monumental hydroelectric system on the Snowy River in the mountains behind Cooma, NSW. The scheme consisted of a system of dams, turbines, pipes and power stations to produce enough electricity to feed the grid in peak hours in South-Eastern Australia. It was similar to the US Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) a method to bump up the economy in the days of the Great Depression, except that Australia had no depression in 1949. When the scheme commenced we needed more power – and lots of it. At the time of writing, (the construction

was finished in 1974, exactly 40 years ago), the nation owes nothing on it. Every night someone in Cooma flicks a switch and, absolutely free, gratis, the water flows down the pipes to turbines and produces power and then, before the next peak hours starts, the presently inactive station can be activated to pump water from the dams below the turbines and back up the hill.

In the early days of the scheme the Royal Australian Air force decided to produce a documentary. The prevailing thinking of the day made it necessary to staff the film unit by officers, as those “other ranks” would not have had sufficient experience to execute the task. A group of Wing Commanders became a desirable rank (the Army equivalent of Lieutenant Colonel).


This group of jovial men gathered in a drinking establishment in Jindabyne and after a days’ hard work of filming a Wing Commander (WC) floated the idea of coining a word which would encompass this body of officers engaged in the task of filming this wonderful endeavour, the building of Australia’s largest ever project.


‘”After all”, the proponent of this ‘word creation’ opined, “There are all sorts of group names. For instance: lions have a ‘pride of lions’, crows have a ‘murder of crows’, there is a school of fish, rookery of penguins, pod of whales and many others.”


There was a long discussion about an appropriate word, particularly as that class of officers was able to call on their considerable knowledge of the English language. In fact, more than a hundred names were suggested.  The group, however, could not reach an agreement, despite the copious consumption of ale by some and gin and tonic by others.


However, there was help at hand. One of the barmen piped up with:


“Howzabout a flush of WC’s?”